A cluster of articles in the Guardian's coverage of Iraq
Jobs for the boys: the reconstruction billions - "Questions over favoured firms' links to Bush administration"
"Anti-war protesters in San Francisco recently barricaded the gates of Bechtel, the engineering group that oversaw the construction of the Channel tunnel. The protesters set aside the usual rallying cry: the war in Iraq was not all about oil, they noted, it was also about building roads and schools, and getting power and water services back in operation in a country ravaged by years of underinvestment as well as war.
Contracts worth billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Iraq are already being handed out by the US government, offering huge profits to a few, favoured companies, many with high-level contacts in the Bush administration and a history of donations to the Republican party. The contracts are being awarded exclusively to US firms and, instead of the usual tendering process, are by invitation only. Bechtel is one of six construction firms chosen to bid."
According to the Centre for Responsive Politics, the invited bidders together contributed almost $3.6m during the current election cycle, mostly to the Republicans. The amounts, though individually not large, are part of the process of ensuring a seat at the table, said Charles Tiefer, professor of law at Baltimore University and an expert in government contracting.
He said the administration faced a "credibility gap" by awarding the contracts behind closed doors. "I see the Halliburton/Cheney connection as revealing of a broader pattern in this administration rather than something unusual or surprising," he said. "This is not corruption in terms of actually breaking the law but a pattern of favouring and influence." The connections between the companies invited and the administration run deep.
Art falls prey to war - "The British Museum is to help Iraq protect its treasures"
"The British Museum is to hold a top-level meeting of curators and scholars this month in a bid to help museums in Iraq protect and restore their ancient treasures.
Anxiety about the country's priceless cultural heritage has been increased by reports that American art dealers have been lobbying US state department and defence officials for an easing of strict export laws under whatever government replaces the Saddam regime."
Ancient archive lost in Baghdad library blaze - ""As flames engulfed Baghdad's National Library yesterday, destroying manuscripts many centuries old, the Pentagon admitted that it had been caught unprepared by the widespread looting of antiquities, despite months of warnings from American archaeologists. [emph added]
Calling the looting of historical artefacts "a catastrophe for the cultural heritage of Iraq", Mounir Bouchenaki, the deputy director-general of the UN cultural body Unesco, announced an emergency summit of archaeologists in Paris on Thursday.
In Washington Colin Powell, the secretary of state, said the US "will be working with a number of individuals and organisations to not only secure the facility, but to recover that which has been taken, and also to participate in restoring that which has been broken _ the United States understands its obligations and will be taking a leading role with respect to antiquities in general, but [the museum] in particular".
A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no plans had been made to protect antiquities from looters, as opposed to ensuring that historical sites were not caught up in the fighting itself."
[Such sophistry! Troops were within 300 yards ... and arrangements made through SecState Powell never reached implementation!]
Coalition in the dock - "There is a strong war crimes case against US and British leaders, but big powers have immunity"
"War crimes are always perpetrated by the loser in war. Though both sides may commit crimes, the victors have always been able to turn might into right, ignoring their own violations and penalising their enemy. ...
It is not difficult to imagine how the case for the prosecution against the coalition might be constructed. An indictment would have three main elements. In the first place, Britain and the US have waged an illegal war, without the sanction of a UN resolution (in itself of dubious legality when it comes to a war launched in violation of the UN charter and fought on this scale). Any argument that Saddam's failure to disarm fast enough justified the invasion of his state, the destruction of Iraq's major cities and the killing of thousands of Iraqis fails on the legal concept of proportionality. In British law, a householder may not cut an intruder to shreds with an axe on suspicion of burglary; if he does so, he becomes the object of prosecution. The suspected - but as yet unproven - violations of disarmament resolutions should not justify in international law the massive destruction and dislocation of the entire Iraqi state.
Ironically, the one instrument the Allies could find in 1945 to explain that Hitler's wars were illegal was the Kellogg-Briand pact, signed in Paris in 1928 at the behest of the then American secretary of state. The pact had outlawed war as an instrument of policy for all the signatory powers, including Britain and the US, but its precise status in international law was open to dispute. At Nuremberg, the American chief prosecutor, Justice Jackson, insisted on using it as the foundation for the whole case against Hitler. It could still be the foundation of the case against British and American belligerence. "
Who was it good for? - "The war in Iraq has been a predictably grim business, full of death, destruction and now rampant looting. But it hasn't been miserable for everyone. Sally Weale finds some unlikely winners in the conflict"
N.B.While I was cutting this together, a whole new cluster has arrived on Guardian's Iraq Coverage